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Momentum in football is priceless.
Take a look at Manchester City, who have won 11 straight games, scoring 37 in the process – correct me if my maths is wrong, ever-vigilant public – and look like continuing their trailblazing form into every match.
Pep Guardiola refuses to compromise. He tells his men to play expansive and enterprising football, assert their authority and, ultimately, entertain. He has been rewarded with a 5-0 win over Liverpool and an impressive 1-0 away win at Chelsea.
Taking a leaf out of Guardiola’s playbook
Guardiola’s refusal to adapt his style for the opposition should be a lesson for Jose Mourinho, who devilishly stifled Liverpool’s attack when United travelled to Anfield. Yet it also blunted United’s offence – an offence that had also been tearing teams apart.
Yes, it was a tough trip at a bitter rival. Yes, a draw was a good point. Yes, he set out to get what he wanted and achieved it. There are some merits to the way in which Mourinho changed his winning formula, but the cost-benefit calculus is sagging – and it’s sagging on the wrong side.
Mourinho’s defensive ‘masterclass’ may have earned his side a draw, but it has cost them vital momentum in a Premier League climate that has seen City race into an early five point lead.
The stagnant Benfica performance
It should’ve been normal service resumed against Benfica, but it wasn’t.
United were stagnant and gifted a victory after a calamitous error from Benfica’s debutant goal-keeper. It was then no surprise that United found it hard to settle into any rhythm away to Huddersfield.
Granted, they gave themselves a mountain to climb when two mistakes saw them 2-0 down before half-time.
Yet United possess more than enough firepower to at least salvage a draw, if not even recover a victory. And had United been playing on the back of a victory against Liverpool and a convincing win away to Benfica, they probably would’ve come back.
They probably wouldn’t be 2-0 down in the first place, if we’re dabbling in hypothetic.
Mourinho’s compromise could cost the team dearly
United’s attack seem short of confidence, shorn of ideas.
It is easy to say in hindsight, but Mourinho’s decision to sacrifice the inventive football his side had been playing up until the Liverpool match for a more disciplined approach was the wrong move.
Losing such momentum – and United were clearly sailing in powerful gales – might be very dear, very dear indeed.
Written by Michael Jones
Follow Michael on Twitter @jonesmichael_97
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